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Safety Survey Puts the Spotlight on Slime, High-Tech Toys

Posted on Nov 23, 2018

Bill Newton, Florida Consumer Action Network, and Petra Vybiralova, Safe Kids coordinator at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital
Bill Newton, Florida Consumer Action Network, and Petra Vybiralova, Safe Kids coordinator at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, explain potential hazards in children's toys, like choking hazards or security risks in high-tech toys.

As the holiday season kicks off, many people are thinking about what will make the perfect gift for the children in their life. Between shopping malls and online retailers, hidden dangers may be lurking on the shelves with the potential to expose children to dangerous chemicals or injury-causing hazards.

The Florida Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) Education Fund releases “Trouble in Toyland,” an annual report on toy safety. The survey has resulted in more than 150 recalls and regulatory actions during its more than 30 years.

At this year’s annual toy safety news conference hosted by Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, experts urged families to pay close attention to information available online to guide them in choosing safe toys this holiday season.

“Each year more than 200,000 children are treated in hospital emergency departments for toy-related injuries,” adds Petra Vybiralova, Safe Kids coordinator at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital.

With old hazards continuing to find their way into the homes of children, the latest trendy toys are bringing new dangers to light. New to the report this year are slime toys, which have the potential to contain high levels of the chemical boron or the compound borax.  If ingested this chemical can cause nausea and vomiting and may have long term health effects.

While slime is a simple toy, high-tech toys brings their own concerns. Smart toys or toys that connect to the internet and interact with children over a Bluetooth connection pose the risk of data collection, violating child privacy laws, and may be vulnerable to hacking.

Toy recalls happen for a variety of reasons, but typically fall into a few main categories:

  • Choking hazards from small parts, including small balls/marbles. If a toy part can fit through a standard toilet paper roll, it is a potential choking hazard for children age 3 and younger. Uninflated balloons may accidentally be swallowed and block the airway. Balloons and small balls should not be given to children younger than 6.
  • Magnets. Magnets are becoming smaller and more powerful. When two or more are ingested they can bind together and cause serious intestinal damage. Keep magnetic items intended for adults, as well as toys with magnets that could come loose, away from children.
  • Batteries. If swallowed, batteries can leak acid causing severe injury. Button batteries are in many toys and are easy for young children to swallow. Additionally, some toys have rechargeable batteries that require USB charging cables, which can cause burns if overheated.
  • High levels of chemicals. Phthalates (often found in certain plastics) and lead (commonly in paint and jewelry items) can adversely affect development. Some slime toys may contain high levels of boron/borax, which is toxic if ingested.
  • Excessive noise. Young children have delicate eardrums and toys that are too loud can damage hearing. If it sounds too loud, it probably is.
  • Other hazards, such as falls or lacerations resulting from the toy breaking.  
Consumers can also use these resources to search for and report unsafe toys:

While it is easy to track down consumers who purchased items such as automobiles and car seats when they are recalled, many caregivers may not know if a toy they own or are considering purchasing has been recalled unless they are diligently checking websites such as the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) website.

It takes the combined effort of advocates, legislators and caregivers to ensure that playtime is safe for all children.

Be Button Battery Aware

From fun greeting cards to many toys, button batteries are a common place item in many homes.

Young children explore the world by putting things in their mouths. The small size of button batteries makes them easy for children to swallow. If one becomes stuck in the throat,  they can do major damage to the esophagus and surrounding tissues when they start to leak acid.

Vivianne, the mother of 3-year-old Isabella, knows this all too well. In late 2017, Isabella was rushed to Johns Hopkins All Children’s after a button battery became stuck in her throat.

After a long recovery to repair the damage she is back to being a toddler, but her mom warns other parents to be button battery aware.

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